ICM’s monthly poll for the Guardian has voting intention figures, with changes from their last poll, of CON 42%(+2), LAB 30%(+2), LDEM 18%(-4). It was conducted between the 20th and 22nd of February.

The raw changes from the last Guardian poll obviously suggest a sharp fall in Lib Dem support, with both Labour and the Conservatives benefitting. However, if we cast our minds back that last ICM poll showed a rather surprising 6 point leap in Liberal Democrat support with no obvious cause. Despite the lack of an obvious cause, Populus and ComRes polls showing a similar pattern seemed to support it, until YouGov and MORI showed a distict lack of a Lib Dem gain. With ICM now showing them back down, it’s looking like that 22% was a blip. It’s possible that the Lib Dems really shot up temporarily for a week then slumped back down again, but more likely random chance just provided ICM with a particularly Lib Dem inclined sample. We’ll never know.

Taking a wider view the poll shows the Conservatives maintaining a healthy double point lead, and unlike some other recent polls doesn’t show Labour falling below the psychologically important 30 point level.

On other questions in the poll ICM asked about the best party on issues. Exact figures aren’t available yet, but the Guardian reports that the Conservatives now lead on most issues. Predictably they are ahead on law and order, which is normally a Tory banker. They are now pretty much neck and neck on education, substantially ahead on the economy in general and narrowly ahead on the present economic crisis. Labour remain ahead on health, which is normally a banker for them and apparently on terrorism. The article implies the Lib Dems are ahead on the environment – at least, they are ahead of the Conservatives.

I take issue with one sentence in the Guardian’s report, “Fears that the recession would push issues such as immigration up the political agenda are backed by today’s figures. It lies fourth equal in importance, cited as a priority by 9%.” This shows the peril of taking a poll in isolation. There are far more regular and better trackers of what issues people think are important, and they have not yet shown any rise in concern over immigration. MORI’s monthly, unprompted tracker of what issues people think are important – full data here – shows 21% cited immigration as an important issue in January, the third highest after the economy and unemployment. That is high, but if you go back to early 2008 and 2007 it was typically cited by over 40% of respondents, so the trend is downwards. It may very well rise in the future – we haven’t seen MORI’s issue tracker for February and the effect of the BJFBW strikes – but so far there’s no evidence of it.

69 Responses to “ICM’s monthly Guardian poll”

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  1. @Anthony – sorry Anthony but that’s like pushing water up a cliff in a monsoon covered in grease shouting weeee.

    People will always be partisan, people will always insinuate their slant on things.

    Looking at your previous blogs, their are only about 2-3 comments per main review that are not partisan.

  2. People who want non-partisan discussion are quite capable of doing it – and I know the overwhelming majority of readers do support the policy.

    I much prefer people to let other people know their own political views. The difference is that they then put them aside and discuss thing sensibly, rather than trying to score points, start arguments or make their party look good.

    This is not a particularly difficult thing to do for anyway who wants to, and anyone who doesn’t want to, and is actually after a rabid partisan argument, really isn’t going to find the discussion particularly satisfying for them.

  3. @Anthony – agreed, but for say a labour supporter to not want to put a spin on unfavourable polls or a Tory supporter not showing obvious glee at the current polling trends IS unlikely.

    I would also suggest that what we are discussing here is not the “rabid partisan argument”, but those of us who like to discuss the real world narative behind the polls.

    It seems to me that this is what Peter was objecting to, and not just the higher levels of rabidity on the site.

    For example the cureent polls show a solid performance for the Tories whilst the opposite is true for Labour – that’s how I see it and how I say it.

    A labour supporter says – “30% is still a decent base to come back from, and whilst the next election is probably Cameron’s to lose I think a lot of the predictions on here are over-optimistic, GINs above is probably more realistic but I’d still chance a bet on a hung parliament if the worst of the recession is felt to have passed by next summer.”

    My response is that this veiw is unenlightened as it ignores that starks facts of our current government and it’s momentous failings.

    Labours response may well discuss where my veiw of those failings is wrong and explain why the future polls will swing their way.

    Unfortunately this is partisan and not a direct discussion about polls. What I would like to understand (outside of the comments policy) is where is the line? A site that only discusses the polls without breaking out into the surrounding narrative would be more dry that the Sahara desert during a heat wave. Your kidding yourself if you think otherwise.

    “People who want non-partisan discussion are quite capable of doing it – and I know the overwhelming majority of readers do support the policy. ” – I liked this comment the most as it was a assumption based on a single poll (consider the irony). We do not have the details on which comments specifically people thought crossed the line etc…. I myself support the veiw of trying for a non partisan asite, but am happy to swallow a huge dose of reality in the implementation.

  4. Kier,

    You asked earier about my own party allegiance, yet this morning say that people will always be partisan.
    If that were so, my allegiance should have been obvious !

    I think most regular posters here know where I stand, but FYI – and anyone else who was unaware – I do not hide the fact that I am a Conservative – I am after all a Councillor, elected the same day as Peter Cairns, if at opposite ends of the realm (my ward is about as far north of the Channel as his is south of John O’Groats).

    There are sensible posters here from all the main mainland parties (except Plaid Cymru ?), but there are also posters across the spectrum who are frankly an embarassment to the positions they aim to support. In the interests of free speech I would not want to ban them, but we don’t have to read their posts if they are repeatedly offensive.


  5. Kier –

    At the simplest level, there are a couple of guidelines that sum it up

    1) Commenting in the spirit of non-partisanship. So mentioning that as a supporter of party A you are happy about this poll at the beginning of a post speculating on what it might mean is absolutely fine. Writing comments that profess to be non-partisan but are obvious attempts to spin a line or provoke an argument aren’t. It is largely the intent I care about.
    2) We care about what the public think, not what each other think. That is, if Y thinks Labour have been atrocious or Z think they’ve been brilliant, that’s their business. We don’t try to show they are wrong or right or argue about it because it doesn’t really matter – most people here are committed to parties so there are no converts to be won. What this site is to discuss what the wider public think, using polling to find out.
    3) It’s often a site ABOUT politics, but not a venue FOR politics. We discuss the battles here, we don’t fight them.

    If, like Paul H-J, people have to ask what party you support (and you are happy to tell them!) you are doing something right (And Paul, there are a couple of Plaid Cymru posters who contribute over on the constituency guide part of the site)

    Anyway – enough of this naval gazing.

  6. May I say on behalf of not only myself but also all Labour Party members how deeply sad I am at the death, just announced, of David Cameron’s son.

    Labour has been doing so badly in recent polls that this pretty poor poll is actually a relief of sorts. It suggests that the Tories are not yet quite certain to gain an overall majority, but things still look pretty bleak. The mood that Brown should be given a chance to put things right with the economy has pretty much gone in the last few weeks ; people have now by and large lost patience. It will be interesting to see if ICM now fall out of line with other pollsters. The LD surge was a surprise & I’d be more inclined to believe this poll than the one with showed such a surge. But still it’s possible that the Tories are further ahead than this.

  7. Barnaby-your first paragraph remarks are typical of the best that lies beneath the adversarial politics in our system.

    It’s not for me to thank you-but I am a Conservative supporter, and know what it is to have a disabled child.

    So I appreciate the spirit of your comment very much.
    Gordon Brown’s remarks in The House just now were generous, heartfelt & very moving.

  8. Very few participants active on this site take a neutral stance when discussing the polls or the issues that might affect those polls. How could it be otherwise?

    But there is a discernable difference between those contributors who like Peter Cairns ( SNP) or Mark Senior ( Lib Dem) by and large try to base their points on historical precedents,the trends in the polls and the state of the economy etc and those who simply parrot the party line or are in a state of denial over their party’s fortunes.

    It is all very well for Mike Richardson ( Con) to induge in his usual hyperbole although he has been quieter of late or for Toby Perkins ( Lab) to tell us in a moment of blind optimism ‘that (despite the recession!) he expects the polls to be extremely close next spring ‘ but such comments contribute little to the debate. Come to think of it what I would be interested to hear from Toby is why he thinks that the two and a half million people expected to be out of a job come the spring of next year will vote Labour in any significant numbers or indeed why the families of these folk would do so. Now the answer to that question might well contribute something to the debate. How about it Toby?

  9. For socio-demographic reasons they are more likely to be Labour voters in the first place. Dealing with unemployment tends to be an issue where Labour are seen comparatively positively.

    If you go back a couple of weeks I did a graph of the Lab.vs.Con position in different social groups, and the DEs, where unemployment will likely hit the hardest, were as one would expect still the most solidly Labour.

  10. Nick – Just to carry on the general issue – those two and a half million (let’s say that’s the figure) might well be convinced that their numbers would be much higher without Labour, notwithstanding their social group.

    In other words, the game of politics is all about saying “we’d have made a better job” opposing “you’d have made it worse”, or “you’ve stolen our ideas” opposing “you stole ours first”.

    In contrast, the game of this site is to exchange views, without seeking to convert or denounce each other, on what the polls are doing (and why). No floating voters will visit this site in the hope that the arguments here will make their minds up for them.

    Although it’s more possible that any innovative ideas that appear might just find their way back to the parties whose activists visit by way of research, it’s unlikely that the more knuckle-headed outliers (not you Nick!) will receive the attetnion they think they deserve.

  11. I think Labour supporters are entitled to a few months yet before they are castigated too severely for their loyalty & faith.

    There is, it seems to me, a critical test period coming up-April/June .

    Gordon goes to US & addresses Congress some time in March. This is clearly a “deck clearer” for the London G20 on April 2nd.
    Will there be a credible communique , representing co-ordinated international government interventions, and clear agreement on Gordon’s Grand Plan for International Financial Regulation?
    If so GB could begin to look like the Saviour of The World again.If there are signs of disention & protectionism he may lose more credibility.

    The Budget is set for April 22nd-what will the revised forecasts look like? What new initiatives will feature?
    Many of GB’s economic initiatives are yet to be rolled out and/or have had a chance to take effect. Some-like the initiatives on Repossession are still being worked up with lenders.
    Much is made by GB of “helping” the unemployed, and yet there are severe criticisms of JobCentre Plus.

    By end June we should have a good idea of the outcome for unemployment, the effectiveness of Government Agencies and Initiatives in keeping people in their Houses, anf finding new jobs.
    By then too, the vexed question of the Credit Market, and the effectiveness of Monetary Policy will be clearer.

    Municipal & EU Elections in May & June will provide some real indication of public opinion.

    Gordon could be looking a whole lot happier by July-but if he’s not I think he will be in danger of running out of time – or credibility-or both.

  12. Recent polls have all shown Brown with horrendously negative approval ratings.

    It may be that today’s sad news actually helps boost Brown’s personal approval ratings by reminding the public that he is human after all. However, I doubt that the goodwill generated by his obvious empathy for the Camerons will rub off on his Government or the Labour Party.

    Notwithstanding the findings in this poll as reported in the Guardian, Brown has still been able to keep his personal ratings above those for his party. If we see Brown’s stock rise, increasing the gap between his personal approval and that of the Government, this may give those plotting and positioning for a leadership election pause for thought.

  13. PAUL H-J

    yes you may be right, but for gordon to be PMQ’s as normal would be wrong, on such a sad day for the conservative leader’s family, but yes it may help brown to be a bit more in touch with people and have a bit more emotion.

  14. Robert Peston’s getting some terrible stick on his blog today. Another hatchet job on bankers which isn’t going down well. People want to know who can sort out the future not more scapegoating.At the moment the LibDems and the BNP are IMHO delivering that.
    I think most people agree there will be massive cuts to public services after the next election whoever wins. Whether Jacqui Smith or Caroline Spelman gets to stick her nose in the trough is irrelevant.

  15. I’ve just read Peston’s blog.

    He isn’t getting any “stick”…?

    He has a queue of people posting ,whose jaws dropped as low as his having heard Turner & Sants today before the Treasury Select Committee.

    Ye Gods.
    It is all truly astounding & utterly outrageous.

    If GB says “it started in America” and/or “we need Global supervision” ever again after this he should resign.

  16. Well yes and no Anthony…..You may have inadvertantly made the opposite point to the one you tried to make

    1 It could be argued that it is precisely because the socio-economic groups who will suffer most from unemployment in the next 12 months are natural Labour supporters that makes the government so vulnerable on this issue. This is their core support and it’s under threat.There are no Tory votes in danger here.

    2 I grant you that relatively few of those in the DE’s thrown out of work in the next 12 months are likely to vote Tory or Lib Dem or that the DE’s will be anything other than solid Labour but I simply do not agree that they will turn out in the same numbers as in 2005 and vote Labour again. I do not believe that the majority who lose their jobs will bother to vote at all although some might even vote BNP.

    3 In 1979-remember ‘Labour is’nt working’ ?- we had a very similar situation. Why should it be any different come 2010? Rising unemployment under a Labour government=net loss of Labour votes.

  17. Nick – the only thing similar to the copnditions of 1979 is that unemployment is rising. Further than that, there are no similarities whatsoever. It’s a completely different type of recession, occurring for totally different reasons.

    People don’t bother to vote when they realise there’s no point – nothing in it for them. The bigger the difference between the two major parties, the more bothered people will be.

    Thatcher appealed to the working classes in a way in which Cameron doesn’t (yet), and despite Cable’s performance, a big LibDem resurgence at the GE isn’t likely among them either.

    Is there polling data on turnout amongst the unemployed?

  18. John tt

    With respect it may be a totally different type of recession to you but to the bloke who has just lost his job it adds up to the same thing -he is out of work. Fairly or unfairly such people tend to blame the government of the day regardless of whether it is left wing , right wing or in the centre. Gordon Brown is already getting a significant portion of the blame because the economy has gone wrong on his watch. You doubtless feel that is unjust but whoever said politics was fair? It ain’t.
    Are you really seriously suggesting John that all or nearly all those in the DE socio economic group who voted Labour in 2005 but come to lose their jobs in the next 12 months will STILL turn out in equal numbers and vote Labour in 2010?
    Ever since Maggie Thatcher forced the Labour party to embrace capitalism there has been very little to choose between the two main parties so far as economic policies are concerned. The test today is competence. So long as this government was perceived to be running the economy reasonably well the electorate tolerated them. That perception has changed and explains why the polls have once again swung away from Labour as indeed several of us forecast it would on this site last autumn. Was it not Bill Clinton who once asked his staff to put up on their wall a sign saying ‘It’s the economy stupid’ ? Wise words.

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